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Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

Characterized by breathtaking beaches, delicious food and stunning temples, Thailand is often called the “Land of Smiles.” As the number one tourist destination in Southeast Asia, it is an extremely popular place for millions of people to visit every year. Unfortunately, with convenient routes that funnel women and children in and out of the country, Thailand has also become a popular destination for human traffickers. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Thailand.

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

  1. Human trafficking by boat is common – First up in this list of facts about human trafficking in Thailand is the method of transportation. The fishing industry is a major asset to Thailand’s economy, so many ships go out to sea to fish. These boats sometimes do not come back for up to three years at a time. This makes it nearly impossible for authorities to monitor the activity of boats. Thus, many traffickers prefer to travel through the seas, despite the risks it may pose on the trafficked victims.
  2. Thailand’s geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable to traffickers – Land routes from neighboring countries into Thailand are not very well secured and corruption is prevalent. This makes it much easier for human traffickers to smuggle people into the country.
  3. Minorities and migrants are high-risk for being trafficked – Among those at the greatest risk for being trafficked in Thailand are foreign migrants, ethnic minorities and stateless persons. They may experience various abuses including the withholding of identity and work documents and debt bondage. They could even be subject to illegal salary deductions. Language barriers and low socioeconomic status further contribute to the vulnerability of these populations.
  4. There is no one “type” of trafficking offender – Profiles of traffickers vary considerably. They include both males and females, Thai and non-Thai nationals. They can be from organized networks with the ability to produce or buy fake documents and avoid immigration requirements. Additionally, traffickers can act individually, seizing opportunities to profit from coercing vulnerable persons into situations of exploitation.
  5. There are various forms of trafficking networks – Trafficking networks can be well-structured and work across borders through the use of brokers. However, most trafficking cases are facilitated by individual and local level networks of friends, family members and former victims that often begin with voluntary migration.
  6. Most victims of human trafficking in Thailand are, in fact, of Thai nationality – The majority of trafficking victims identified in Thailand are Thai nationals, trafficked both domestically and internationally. Migrants from neighboring countries make up a large portion of identified trafficked persons in Thailand. However, many more victims from neighboring countries are not identified. These victims often willingly migrate from their home countries in search of better opportunities. Some of their home countries include China, Vietnam, Russia, Uzbekistan and Fiji.
  7. Victims are often trafficked into Thailand through established migration routes – These victims come from neighboring states with significantly lower levels of socioeconomic development. Facilitated by long and porous borders, irregular migration is a common trend in meeting the labor demands of low-skilled employment sectors.
  8. Trafficking in Thailand is a $12 billion industry – This makes it a bigger cash earner than the country’s drug trade, according to the International Labor Organization.
  9. More than 900 victims of human trafficking have been rescued in 2019 – According to official statistics released by the Thai anti-trafficking department, since the beginning of 2019, the police have rescued 974 victims of human trafficking. Most of the victims were from Myanmar.
  10. The hotel industry has taken initiative in combating this issue – A French multinational hotel group set up an employee training program to identify and address sex tourism in 2001. Additionally, Airbnb works with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign. which provides education about human trafficking. Airbnb also works with No Traffick Ahead, a coalition for combating human trafficking.

Efforts to Eliminate Human Trafficking in Thailand

These facts about human trafficking in Thailand reflect the severity of this problem on a global level. The Thai government has pledged to continue fighting the human trafficking epidemic in their country. In the last year, it partnered with airlines and charities to warn visitors against involvement in trafficking. Subsequently, they urged them to spot and report potential cases.

UNICEF has been particularly active in calling attention to child exploitation and in addressing its root causes. This organization provides economic support to families so that their children will not be at risk of sexual exploitation; it improves access to education and is a strong advocate for children’s rights.

Progress in reducing the human trafficking trade has been made in recent years. However, to make a widespread impact, the efforts of these nongovernmental organizations need to be aided by urgent government action. This action is essential to protect Thai citizens and migrant workers.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Thailand
Modern slavery plagues millions of communities globally. Human trafficking, a $150 billion plus industry, impacts lives regardless of race, gender or economic status. Human trafficking in Thailand is a major national problem.

Children and Human Trafficking

With convenient trafficking routes that funnel women and children in and out of the country, Thailand has become a popular destination for traffickers. Extreme poverty, particularly in rural areas makes children vulnerable. Research estimates that around 60,000 children are trapped in the sex trade in Thailand. Direct intervention can be extremely difficult, due to the violent nature of this criminal activity.

There are a number of risk factors that make children vulnerable to human trafficking. Poverty and hunger can cause parents to sell their children into slavery with the hope that they will find a better life. In addition, traffickers target homeless and isolated children, hoping to lure them with false promises. A lack of education or understanding of their legal rights, also makes children more vulnerable.

In Thailand, most children only attend school for about 7 years. The most susceptible population are girls living in orphanages who are about to graduate into the outside world.

Peacework Safe Girls Campaign

Peacework, a non-profit based in Virginia, has developed the Peacework Safe Girls Campaign to combat child trafficking in Thailand and other countries through education and empowerment. The Safe Girls Campaign empowers children with financial self-reliance and avoid the chains of trafficking.

The Peacework Safe Girls Campaign hosts a variety of different empowerment projects at orphanages in Thailand staffed by university students from the United States working alongside university students in Thailand.

In Saraburi, Thailand, Peacework partners with Asia Pacific University, a Seventh-day Adventist university east of Saraburi. The partnership between Peacework and Asia Pacific University focuses on the development of a financial independence curriculum. They present the curriculum to the orphanages and shelters on an annual basis.

Peacework Safe Girls Campaign empowers children in Chiang Rai as well. Chiang Rai sits at the top of Thailand, and ineffective border regulation results in well-used trafficking routes. Peacework partners with Keep Girls Safe, an initiative of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency that runs a shelter for young girls. The Safe Girls Campaign sends university students from the United States to Chiang Rai to run educational workshops for shelter residents.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Through these projects, the Safe Girls Campaign helps children achieve self-determination that helps them avoid trafficking. Equipped with knowledge about their legal rights and the skills to pursue a profitable career, vulnerable children can take control of their futures and resist the cycle of trafficking. The work also gives children the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. Entrepreneurial development equips them to pursue a financially stable career.

While the scale of the campaigns’ reach may be small, the impact of economic empowerment on the lives of orphans in Chiang Rai and Saraburi are sure to have a ripple effect. In addition, the tactics they are developing to fight human trafficking and poverty are inherently valuable to ending the epidemic globally.

The prevention work Peacework does through the Safe Girls Campaign is crucial in the fight to end trafficking and it currently hopes to expand the campaign to countries around the world. Their prevention strategy can be applied to any country. The Safe Girls Campaign empowers children to pursue better lives.

– Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr